Category: Fundraising

We welcome your views on Benefacts

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Benefacts is planning for the future, and we’d like your help.

This time last year, we asked for your views about our free public website, and based on that feedback, we took steps to improve the functionality of the site and the accessibility of the data.

You can now use the new advanced search facility on benefacts.ie to isolate nonprofits by geography, institution type, classification, charitable purpose, financial scale and/or regulatory status. People are using this facility, for example, to discover charities that qualify for tax efficient gifts, or to analyse the profile of compliance with best practice standards in financial reporting or governance.

Now we’d like to hear from you again, whether you are a regular user or an occasional visitor. Why do you visit the website? What do you like/what don’t you like about the experience? How could we improve it further?

Go to the consultation website at https://consult.benefacts.ie and make your views known before 21st December. This survey is being managed for us by CiviQ – they will be preparing an analysis of your views and in a further round of consultation will invite you to participate in a new type of survey on the views that everyone has shared.

We’re especially interested to hear from people who visit the site often, use the free public API, and/or regularly take print-offs of the content or download documents. How does Benefacts support your work? Is there anything more you think we could do to help make the work of Irish nonprofits even more transparent and accessible?

We hope you find this a helpful opportunity to shape the future of Benefacts and look forward to your participation.

Using Benefacts.ie v.2 to learn more about the world of Irish Nonprofits

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Some users of Benefacts.ie have been telling us about what they’ve been using the new advanced search functionality to find out.

Searching by classification allows you to discover the distribution of different kinds of nonprofits around the country, and the facet tools provide a further breakdown of the data analysed. For example, there are 357 group water schemes in the Benefacts Database of Irish Nonprofits, most of them incorporated as Friendly Societies. The largest number (62) are in County Mayo, and 10 have a turnover of more than €500k. Use this search query.

Or search the 3,967 primary and secondary schools to see how many are registered as charities (1,844), and how many receive HSE funding under Section 39 of the 2006 Health Act (20).

Use the filters to discover more about the 3,467 nonprofits that publish abridged accounts – including 1,488 registered charities, mostly based on 2016 data. The latest news from our finance analysts is that the level of abridgement for 2017 has reached 50%, up 10% on the previous year.

Where full accounts have been provided by incorporated nonprofits to the Companies Registration Office (CRO) – which is our main source – you can also search by financial turnover: we’ve structured the analysis in bands of less than €10k, €10 – €50k, €50 – €250k and so on.

Some things we can’t yet report on. None of the financial statements filed by charities are yet available from the Charities Regulatory Authority, nor are the names of charity trustees included in the open data file that they release, even though director data is readily available from the CRO, including names and dates of appointment of the trustee/directors of incorporated charities. Because the unincorporated trustee data isn’t available, we haven’t been able to respond to various queries about gender distribution, length of service and other interesting governance questions – but hopefully that will change soon.

Thanks to the support of our funders in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Ireland Funds, www.benefacts.ie comes to you free of charge. Give us your feedback, and if you like what you see, spread the word!

Benefacts V2!

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After two years of unbroken service and 165,000+ visits, benefacts.ie has been updated.

We’ve added features in response to user feedback, found some new data, and added some organisations to scope. Have a look!

Spread the word
Search” has moved up to the toolbar, and permits simple or advanced organisation search. Simple search gives you quick access to a nonprofit, if you know what you’re looking for – here’s an example. The new presentation format incorporates additional content about purposes and activities where the nonprofit is a charity, and smartens up the presentation of financial and governance data as well.

Have a look for your favourite nonprofit and if you like what you see, go to the bottom of the page and tweet a link to your followers!

Introducing advanced search
Use the advanced search function for more detailed results. For example, if you’d like to make a donation to an arts organisation that’s registered for tax-efficient gifts, check these boxes for the 103 arts companies; filter for SORP-compliance and the list goes down to 29.

You can also use advanced search to find nonprofits near you, or to find ones involved in specific kinds of activities.

Political parties
Which brings us to a group on nonprofits appearing on Benefacts.ie for the first time – political parties. Benefacts defines civil society organisations as all those that are neither part of the Government nor of the private sector. This includes political parties and – thanks to the Office of the Clerk of the Oireachtas (which registers them), and the Standards in Public Office Commission (which collects and publishes their financial statements) – we can provide these listings for the first time on Benefacts.ie.

Other non-charities in Benefacts Database of Irish Nonprofits include chambers of commerce, trade unions and sports bodies.

Cooperation with Fingal
This year, we are delighted to have had the cooperation of Fingal County Council and Fingal Public Participation Network (PPN) in introducing the contents of their register to the database, including valuable data on activities. Where a local nonprofit is part of the Fingal PPN, this is flagged at the foot of their listing – we hope other counties and PPNs will follow Fingal’s lead and we’re starting to explore this with them now. When they do, there will be information about at least 10,000 more local societies, clubs and associations to be found in our one-stop shop for information about all Irish nonprofits.

Benefacts model is to harvest data from many public sources, and put it to work in the service of nonprofits and their stakeholders. Nobody has to provide us with any additional information so we don’t add to the regulatory burden on the sector.

We’ve started to work with a group of public sector bodies and philanthropies to put the data to work in a way that should help to rationalise the heavy cost of duplicate filing that represents such a heavy administrative burden – on funders and nonprofits alike.

Contact us!
Meanwhile, any nonprofit listed on our site is welcome to ask us for a look at all of the data we have collected about your organisation to date – just get in touch.

When is a nonprofit not a charity?

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In our 2018 nonprofit sector analysis, Benefacts introduced a large body of newly-available data: the local nonprofit organisations (clubs, societies, branches of national associations) that are registered with their local county as part of the Public Participation Network structure. Only 17% of these are registered charities, and a significant proportion of those are primary and secondary schools.

In this summary of her presentation to the seminar launching the report, Oonagh Breen looks at the proportion of registered charities relative to the full population of nonprofits, and discusses how Ireland compares with some other jurisdictions around the world, in terms of the full extent of the third sector.

Now that we are beginning our second year with this data from Benefacts, I wanted to look at how we are mapping the non-profit sector and to ask that question that we always do, because we live on a small island. How do we compare with the rest of the world? I want to raise this and some other key questions here this morning. – even if I can’t answer them all – because I think these are the types of things that we should be thinking about. What size is the sector in Ireland and how do we compare to other countries? Who is doing the counting? How does the size of our non-profit sector compare to our registered charity sector? How rich is civic engagement per capita – meaning, how “thick” is society here, how connected are we to one another? We certainly have this idea of ourselves in Ireland as a very generous nation. When we dig down into the data, how many of these questions can we answer?

So the first thing I want to highlight is the new data, specifically non-profits registered with their local authorities through public participation networks (PPNs), most of which don’t appear on any other register. The PPNs are really interesting, because they take us to the grass roots of society. They are the sort of organisations that you are involved in at a local level, that you go out to when you come home from work, that you mightn’t even think of as a charity or as a nonprofit, even though you are a signed up member and you pay a subscription every year. These clubs, associations and societies are an essential feature of the landscape of Irish civil society and in recent years they have started to be registered under the 2014 Local Government Act which means that of the 31 local authorities, 29 so far have started to make their lists available. This body of data is going to grow — both the numbers of associations listed, and the group of local authorities providing data — so this time next year I’ll be saying, there are 31 local authorities and we have 31 published lists.

The registers collected by PPNs celebrate local civic engagement, which they record under 3 headings; social inclusion, community and environment. So if you go into any of these lists, you’ll find your residents’ association, you’ll find the local playgroup, you’ll find the active retirement association, you’ll find the scouts, the girls guides, the men’s sheds. All of those things add up to define our nonprofit culture and nobody has mapped this before. So what we have here is a massive piece of new data. Massive in the sense that at the moment, as at the end of Quarter 1 this year, 9,000 local bodies have been brought into the Benefacts database, of which the majority – 83% – are new to Benefacts, in the sense that Benefacts hasn’t found them on any other registers (such as the list of companies, or associations that benefit from charity tax relief, or registered charities).

So where do we sit compared to everyone else? Let’s start with New Zealand, because at 4.7 million people they have a population very similar population to ours and, according to Statistics New Zealand, in 2013 there were 114,000 non-profits. That’s 114,000 compared to 29,000 reported by Benefacts at the moment in two countries with a similar population. Another important comparative statistic is the number of registered charities as a proportion of all non-profits. New Zealand has more than 27,000 charities or 25% of the non-profit sector there, if you do your math, compared to 29,000 non-profits and just under 9,000 registered charities here.

Now they have been counting non-profits and charities since 2005, so New Zealand has a 10 year head start on us. But even back in 2005, they had 97,000 non-profits on the list, so we have a bit of a way to go, if we think we are as connected as they are. But maybe there are thousands more non-profits out there and we just haven’t mapped them yet. Now keep those figures in mind and let’s see how they compare with the other jurisdictions I’m going to look at briefly.

Next door neighbour Australia, with a much bigger population at 24 million people, had 600,000 nonprofits according to Australian Productivity Commission in 2010. Quite a big number, but then it’s a big country. When I talk about who’s doing the counting, I asked the question, how do they know they have 600,000?


When I checked with my international contacts in Australia, they said, it’s a bit of an estimate, we are not really sure, we don’t have a Benefacts model where we can tie down who each of these bodies are, using a unique identifier. Our researcher did some work in the 1990s, and that’s the estimate we decided to run with: 600,000 non-profits of which 55,000 are registered charities. In Australia they started counting charities in 2013, so again, a little bit before us, but not much. So to do the math again, only 9% of Australian non-profits are registered as charities, which means they make up about one-tenth of the non-profit sector. But the big caveat is we are not sure about the reliability of that estimate of 600,000 is: it might be a lot more, it might be a lot less.

Canada is another big common law jurisdiction with 36 million people, so 9 times bigger than Ireland. In 2005, the Bureau of Statistics in Canada estimated that there were 170,000 non-profits in Canada. Now that figure is interesting, because when I went to talk to my Canadian friends last week, I discovered that that figure includes only incorporated non-profits: unlike Ireland (thanks to Benefacts), they have no data on unincorporated non-profits. When they carried out some research in this field, they went for the available registers, the easy ones to count. Corporations are always much easier to count than unincorporated organisations. So that figure of 170,000 is probably very under-stated. As regards registered charities in Canada, the number is 86,000, which means 50% of the non-profit sector is composed of charities.

Closer to home, the population of the UK is 65m if you include Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. If we combine all of their different charity registers, the aggregate number of registered charities in the UK is 315,000. Last time they issued a figure for their non-profit sector (from the Civil Society Almanac which is quite a reputable source, updated annually), the figure was 900,000 and that was in 2014, so the percentage of charities relative to the total population of non-profits was 35%. Unfortunately, every year since then, they only count the registered charities, which is a much smaller number, so we have lost out. And again you wonder about the thinking behind not collecting all of the data – is it a funding question? In any case, in the UK, charities number 35% of the wider non-profit sector.

Which brings us to Ireland. Our population is very similar to New Zealand at 4.8m people. We know from the Benefacts database that we have 29,000 thousand non-profits and counting, and we know from the Charities Regulator that the most recent publicly available figure for the number of registered charities – from November 2017 – is 8,862 registered charities. This puts us in around the same proportion as the UK in terms of the ratio of charities to non-profits.

So what does all of that mean? I’m not a statistician, but I’m interested in the profile of non-profits and charities in countries similar to ours around the world and I’ve made a study of regulatory regimes for charity internationally. One of the things I’m curious about is density of non-profits in different jurisdictions. So to compare the small number of examples I’ve just given, New Zealand comes best out of this analysis. For every 100 people in New Zealand there are almost 2.5 nonprofits. Australia is about the same, but their data is less reliable because it’s based on estimates. In Canada, based on the available data (which as we know excludes all of the unincorporated non-profits), it’s only half a non-profit for every individual – so the number might grow to 1 per 100 people if we added those in. The UK proportion of non-profits is almost 1.5 for every 100 people, and then we come to Ireland, using the new figures supplied by Benefacts today, we are just over half a nonprofit for every 100 people in the country. And if that is not your lived experience, if you think you come into contact with more non-profits, we need to make sure that the data gets into the Benefacts database.

So here’s my parting thought. When we think of non-profits in the broader sense, most are a product of the engagement of individual citizens and their voluntary contributions of time and money. In many ways – that outcome, that product – is what makes us who we are; the culture and the vibrancy of our non-profit community is what makes us Irish. It is the civic glue that sticks us together as a country. So if we can fill the gaps in our understanding of the entire non-profit sector and not just registered charities, if we can better understand our society in terms of the jigsaw pieces that make up the third sector in Ireland, we are going to be able to make better policy choices for the future.

If you read Benefacts 2018 sector analysis report you’ll see that Patricia Quinn estimates that the 29,000 non-profits she and her team have identified will grow potentially to 40,000, when all of the locally-based organisations have been registered on their local public participation networks and included on the Benefacts database. And if Patricia has read the crystal ball correctly, our numbers change dramatically, because Ireland’s cohort of non-profits will be shown to be closer to 1 non-profit for every 100 people in the country. That looks far healthier relative to our international peers, and it demonstrates why Benefacts’ analysis is such an important project in terms of our understanding of the third sector in Ireland.

When is a charity not a nonprofit?

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In our 2018 nonprofit sector analysis report (p29), we flagged the fact that there are public bodies which we don’t include in the Benefacts Database of Irish Nonprofits, even though they are currently listed on the Public Register of Charities.

These were deemed to be charities when the provisions of the Charities Act 2009 were commenced in October 2014, because they had previously been granted charitable tax relief by Revenue. However the fact that they are public bodies means they cannot be considered autonomous of Government.

Name CRA number
Arts Council 20007386
Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board 20083304
Chester Beatty Library 20009571
Citizen Information Board 20048020
City of Dublin Education and Training Board 20083236
Commissioners of Irish Lights. 20002794
Cork Education and Training Board 20083274
Crawford Art Gallery Cork 20072926
The Discovery Programme: Centre For Archaeology And Innovation Ireland 20036973
Donegal Education and Training Board 20083441
Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board 20083526
Leargas – The Exchange Bureau 20020330
Gaisce – Gradam An Uachtarain – The President’S Award 20020903
Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board 20083427
Health Service Executive 20059064
Heritage Council 20036867
Irish Blood Transfusion Service 20006280
The Irish Heritage Trust Company Limited By Guarantee 20061609
The Irish Manuscripts Commission 20063559
Irish Museum Of Modern Art Company 20012793
Irish Water Safety Association 20058364
Kerry Education and Training Board 20083243
Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board 20083465
Kilkenny and Carlow Education and Training Board 20083434
Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board 20083380
Legal Aid Board 20012489
Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board 20083830
Longford and Westmeath ETB 20083762
Louth and Meath Education and Training Board 20083458
Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim Education and Training Board 20083472
National Digital Research Centre 20066208
POBAL 20029609
Teagasc Head Office 20022754
Tipperary Education and Training Board 20083595
Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board 20083281

For a definition of what is meant by a public body, and the current full list of these, go to the Register of Public Sector Bodies (including General Government Bodies) in Ireland on the website of the Central Statistics Office, updated April 2018.